Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Sunday, 17 June 2018

at home

Rose ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ and bright blue skies

Midmorning, I started sifting compost from bin two.  My goal was to mulch the edges of the center bed as far as possible.


at least a foot of good compost at the bottom of the bin

I did not get even one barrow full before I gave up and went inside.  It was too hot…in the low 80s.  I worked on billing and blog posts instead, waiting for the day to cool down.

I did not get back outside again till five.

my view while sifting compost

all the way to the bottom of bin two

Bin two was turned into bin one. Bin three will be turned into bin two.

I was able to mulch all down the east side and the front of the center bed.

my audience

And I got my small batch of ladies in waiting planted.

In the evening, because of the extra hot day and because Sunday is the quiet day there, Allan watered at the

Ilwaco Community Building.

fern at the entrance to the library

same fern after cutting off the last year’s fronds

another fern that Allan trimmed up today


Earlier this weekend, I finished the fourth in Virginia Ironside’s Marie Sharp series.  I do hope there will be a fifth one, seeing Marie into her 70s.

I knew exactly which documentary she refers to in this passage:

…The first of the Paradise Lost trilogy.  I have watched them all, the earlier ones twice, and it is a strange thing to find such a documentary enjoyable to watch.

When Marie goes to buy an iPhone:

I am a fan of Piet Oudolf, so i was terribly amused at this passage about a garden made by Marie’s friend James.

Marie follows David’s example and goes on to say, “It’s not like a normal garden, true…

I discovered Virginia Ironside by reading (three times in all) her book about pet loss, Goodbye Dear Friend.  So of course, the passage about Marie burying her cat is perfect.

You might not want to read it; it had me in tears.  It is at the end of this blog post so you won’t miss anything if you stop right here.

I still miss my heart cat Smoky and my good feline friend Calvin and can’t even bear to put their ashes in the ground yet.



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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Allan’s cold hit him hard today.  My grandma used to say, when ill, that she was “sickabed on two chairs with my feet on the woodpile.”  Google tells me that the original quotation was “sick abed AND two chairs”, apparently something to do with putting two chairs next to your bed so you don’t roll out.

I worried about work all day and as a result I could not focus on weeding my own garden, until about five o clock, when a cold wind drove me indoors soon after I began.  Before that, I assuaged work worries slightly by going to the Norwood and the J’s garden, both just yards away from home.

Skooter accompanied me to the Norwood garden.

the north side shade garden

Across the street, I weeded the J’s front garden.

But look, one of the three arborvitae at the end is dying from the base up. I have no idea why.

looks completely ominous

So I found this possibly useful post.

Someone might tell me “That is not an arborvitae, it’s a juniper.”  I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to the particulars of common columnar evergreens.

The cold wind that sent me indoors after working allowed me to finish reading a wonderful book by Monty Don.  I wish I could remember which recent book led me to this one.  I got it via interlibrary loan; it came from the Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kansas, which appears to be a linked chain of libraries, similar to our Timberland Regional Library.

Frosty likes dogs.  He grew up with dogs with his previous person, Terry, who died after the dogs did and who passed his cat family on to us.

I was smitten with Monty Don’s writing style.  If I lived in the UK, he would be familiar to me as the host of Gardener’s World.  Oh, how I wish we had more gardening shows to watch on this side of the pond.  We used to, but Home and Garden Television (HGTV) turned into just Home television.  It looks like I may be able to watch Gardeners World online.

I now want to read all of Don’s books.

I was hooked by this paragraph at the beginning:

Because the book reminisces about all the dogs of Monty Don’s life, not just the famous Nigel (who appears with him on telly), there is the tragedy of losing one’s companion, which strikes me hard because of losing my feline friends Calvin and Smoky so recently.  I wept over this passage from The Sword in the Stone.

I liked this passage about having a seasonal pond, as we do out on the Meander Line.

Nigel likes peas.

Nigel also likes apples.

Below: More of the agony of losing a canine friend.  I hope I will feel this way about the place where I will put Smoky and Calvin’s ashes, where Smoky’s mother is already buried.

On changing the garden:

I appreciate that Monty Don is so open about having suffered from depression.  I have ordered The Jewel Garden, the story of how he and his spouse lost their jewelry design business and eventually ended up with a beautiful garden and a prime spot on Gardeners World.

I am pleased to report that after lying sickabed all day, Allan got up in the evening and enjoyed watching some telly (not Gardeners World, unfortunately, just Rachel Maddow and Survivor!).  His improvement, despite still having a cough and sniffles, was remarkable, but I said that we must still have tomorrow off so that he can continue to recuperate.

At bedtime, I began to reread Mirabel Osler’s gardening trilogy, beginning with A Gentle Plea for Chaos.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

You may recall that starting in late 2004 up till just a few years ago, we planted and maintained the gardens at Discovery Heights.  When my knee started to plague me, we passed the job on to a younger gardening business, Flowering Hedge Design (Shelly Hedges and Terran Bruinier).  It is a job that requires a lot of clambering up rocks and hills.  These young women are most capable of such feats.

Terran and Shelly, photo courtesy Flowering Hedge Design

Terran just sent me some photos of their recent work on those gardens.  She says that almost all of the white narcissi are ones that we planted years ago that have naturalized.  It was her idea, back in 2004, to plant all white ones.  Terran and Shelly have removed some of the plants that the deer were destroying.  (I was startled way back when to find that deer eat yew!)

Terran and Shelly have formalized the garden by pruning those escallonias in the lower garden.  I always regretted having planted them so far forward!

Photos by Terran Bruinier:

lower garden, north side

lower garden, south side

lower garden, south side

middle garden

middle garden

upper garden

It pleases us greatly to see these gardens well maintained.  Just keeping them all nice and clean along the front edge is a big project.

More old photos of the gardens in this post: Three Gardens in Deer Country.

rainy day reading

The Monday weather started with much rain and wind.

Skooter snoozing

Allan ran errands, one of which was to pick up Calvin’s ashes at the Oceanside Animal Clinic.  Oh how terrible it felt to put the pretty little box of ashes next to the box containing Smoky’s remains, on the second tier of the table by my chair.  They will be interred in the garden with Smoky’s mother, Mary, when I can bear to do so.

Frosty, the last one of the three cat family, must miss his mother and his brother.

I know that Skooter misses Calvin, because Calvin incited and seemed to enjoy the Chasing Game. And I sometimes found them curled up next to each other on the bed.

I miss having a good lap cat.  Frosty likes the back of my chair, as shown above, and Skooter is not a lap cat.

I began my reading by finished Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, while taking copious notes.

from Saturday night

This was rather shocking to me!

I was glad, later in the book, to see this:

A brilliant bouquet idea:

I had plenty of time left for more reading, and I finished two more books, each of which I had already begun.

I had started with book 2 of a novel series by Virginia Ironside, and then, partway through, I realized I must reread the first one.  I got it from the library:

With that one finished, I returned to the second in the series, which I had purchased.

I will share more when book 3 and 4, which I just ordered, arrive and get read.    I dote on the author because she wrote the helpful book about pet loss, Goodbye Dear Friend.

The sun came out for awhile, much to my dismay.  I kept reading, though.  Allan went out and mowed four lawns, the Norwoods, 2 doors down, Devery’s next door, and J’s across the street.  And the part of ours that was dry enough to be mowable.  They had all gotten so long with all the rainy days (and having to work on the rare nice day).

Norwood lawn

I was worried in the evening because Allan had a troublesome little cough and sniffle.  Oh please please please don’t let us be getting sick when we have so much to do.  (Spoiler: He does have a bad cold now and I feel an ominous tickle in my throat.)

Skooter, hours later

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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A cold and rainy day permitted me to re-read The Bad Tempered Gardener by Anne Wareham.

The book is out of print and should not be.  I hope it gets republished.  If you are lucky enough to visit Veddw,  Anne’s garden in Wales, she might have copies for sale there.  I found one online, used, without too much searching.

Here are just some of my favourite bits.  With a cat on my lap, I cannot lay the pages out flat. The pages are a bit glossy so you may have to squint a bit to read certain passages here.  It will be worth it and I hope it will inspire you to read the whole thing.

I do love that she used the mulching method to make her large garden, because that is the way I do it, too.

I appreciate the personal revelations:

With a lot of garden to plant, her fondness for variegated ground elder (aegepodium) makes me feel a little better about it being rampant at the Shelburne garden, because that is not a battle I am going to win:

If I came across a a plant that I knew was especially rampant, eradicable and mad I might treat myself, especially if I had read a lot of warnings about it from garden writers. One of the best was a single plant of variegated ground elder, which after a relatively slow start went on to cover the ground in the whole of the front garden.

Later: Part of my ambition is to persuade people to appreciate spreading plants—the simpler, easier, and more beautiful effect produced by some commitment rather than an endless, irritating variety of plants.

Later: I used plants as weapons, hoping they’d rampage away, covering the ground, eating weeds, defying slugs, making me a garden.  I couldn’t afford hard materials—plants had to do everything (not recommended) and two acres is a lot to cover.


Ironically, the day after my rainy reading day, we spent seven hours tearing out a vast swathe of orange crocosmia.  At least I found takers for most of the corms.  Anne likes it:

On page 20, she recommends two garden writers, Constance O’ Brien and Marion Cran and while I continued to read, I got Allan to order me all of their books online.

Marion Cran wrote several books (1930s and 1940s), which Allan was able to find; I got them all and O’Brien’s book for under $60 total and look forward to their arrival.  Now I wish I was in a garden “guild” instead of a garden “gang.”

A theme throughout the book is Anne’s preference for good thoughtful design over plant collecting.  She quotes Gertrude Jekyll:

Now, I am a collector of precious plants and my garden has an awful lot of onesies, so I am not sure Anne would like it at all.  I appreciate her writing for making me think. Yet I am still irresistibly onesy-ing five years after I first read it.


I value her thoughts about death and the garden.  Regular readers know I do contemplate this frequently, maybe because I grew up around old people who talked about it.

In spite of our diversions, we all ultimately find a path to realization of our own physical end.

The garden….throws the remorselessness of time in our faces, depicting in its endless, indifferent  moving on, growing and dying, just how we are fated.  There is grief and struggle and real love out there.

This is my favourite paragraph in the whole book:

Below, on garden touring, garden tour guides, and how gardens get picked (which I like because I have seen some indifferent gardens choses for various tours, even, rarely, and only a couple of times on the Hardy Plant tours):

One of the elements I would like best at Veddw is Anne’s use of words in the garden.


I know what she means about the slight awkwardness; I had lots of quotations in my garden, mostly on the fences, in 2008 and 2012 when my garden got toured a few times, and it feels a bit funny to pause while someone reads it. With me, it comes with hoping that whatever is written speaks to them.  One of the tasks on my to-do lists is to rewrite those words that have faded away.

Anne was on a garden show called “I’ve Got Britain’s Best Garden” in which gardens were actually analyzed and criticized.  She writes that the show could be found on Youtube (in 2010) , yet I was unable to find it.  I long to see it.

You can read part of Anne’s essay (included at a more length in this book) on why she hates gardening right here.

Below, I am interested to learn that her garden is close to the Forest of Dean (because I have been there).  I also do not like to be away from my garden even for one night.  And I DO mind that my own garden will most likely not continue after we are gone.

Below, by Anne’s reflecting pool, at the end of this passage is something I think about if Allan (my spouse and business partner) and I have had a day of much squabbling at work:

On the topic of dividing the garden to avoid squabbling:

One concept I remembered most strongly from my first reading in 2012 was that she does not like an edged lawn!  The text is followed by a photo by her spouse, garden photographer Charles Hawes, showing a lawn with alchemilla spilling over.  (And I tend to get hostile toward alchemilla at times.)

Something I expected to find was a chapter about her method of leaving debris to compost in the garden beds.  I could have sworn it was in the book.  I must have read it in one of her articles, instead, perhaps this one.

Below, I am reminded me of my shock at the number of local gardeners who’ve told me they have never been on a garden tour (when there at least two most years within easy driving distance): A staggering number of garden owners I came across while writing up gardens for magazines absolutely prided themselves on never visiting anyone else’s garden.  And that is unlikely to inspire you to brilliant composition.  Or even, perhaps, to realize that gardens are composed at all.

On two occasions, Anne mentioned Piet Oudolf coming to visit her and I went Squeeee! (I admire him so.) On using grasses inside of boxwood squares (you really must read The Bad Tempered Gardener in its entirety to learn about this and other designs whose purpose is to evoke the history of the Veddw):

This, because it made me laugh:  “You like your succulents,” someone observed one day. How wonderfully patronizing—like ‘”Old Fred, he do like his pint.”

I haven’t even touched on her theme of understanding gardens.  You must read the book; I can’t even begin to quote all the parts that were so educational and inspirational to me.

You can read more online by Anne and others at her aptly named website, thinkinGardens.

In the near future, I will be reading her brand new book, The Deckchair Gardener: An Improper Gardening Manual.

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Saturday, 7 April 2018

for the readers

The wind storm was late but the pouring rain was right on time, so we had a reading (me) and project (Allan) weekend.

a snoozy day for Skooter

Odd Lots  by Thomas C Cooper

I read Odd Lots years ago and rated it so highly that I decided to read it again.  It is one of those books that takes you through the months of the year in a collection of gardening columns.  Like Dan Pearson’s book of magazine essays, Natural Selection: A Year in the Garden, there is some repetitiveness as certain themes tend to recur every January or June.  That bothers me not at all.

Here are just some of my favourite bits.

Written in 1995, Cooper’s take on garden photography is so very different from today’s pocket cams and Instagram.

You WILL hear tales of my compost pile:

Mail order plants:

Yes!  I have such a strong memory of the first mail order plant box I ever received.  It must have been in 1990, from Herb Senft of Skyline Nursery.  His catalog was just a list of botanical names.  On the top of my order, wrapped in newspaper, was a blooming Pacific Coast iris.  I was so thrilled to get a bonus plant.  As for the newspapers, I enjoy my bulb order from Colorblends each fall, stuffed with newspaper from the Netherlands.


Puttering, also known as “something shiny syndrome”:

Narcissi (daffodils) are my favourite of all flowers:

I have read all of these authors except for Thalassa Cruso:

The joy of gardeners:

I found my day with Thomas Cooper a delight.  He does not seem to have written any other books, although he edited The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden, which I acquired in 2014 at Timber Press during the Garden Bloggers Fling and still have not read.  I am moving it closer to the top of the pile.

The rain and the cat snoozing continued into the evening.


Sunday, 8 April 2018

The belated storm stayed offshore and did not create much fuss here.

Skip ahead to the third book for more about gardening!


I am probably the only one here who has a deep nostalgic love for Lenora Mattingly Weber’s Beany Malone series.  When writing up my 35 years of reading series, I was pleased to find out about this biography of her (partly an autobiography, as she did begin to write one before she died) written and self-published by her son.  I found it online for a price that I usually would not pay to own a book.

On using her friends or neighbors as characters in her stories:

She wrote a series of depression era short stories which were gathered into a (possibly children’s) book called Mr. Gold and Her Neighborhood House.  I cannot find a copy of that one online for less than $135.00

I would love to read all of Nonie’s diaries.

The beginning of the Beany Malone series (especially for Beany fans who might have wandered in here):



I wish I could find photos of the house and grounds that Nonie and her family lived in for awhile.  (Her husband, Al, was ill much of the time and so her writing supported the family, and this grand house proved to be too much for them in the long run.)

She felt that the house scoffed at the comparatively humble furnishings that the Webers moved into it.

I think I did find the duplex for which her son provided the address, the house that Nonie lived in while Al was so ill, and after he died, and which provided an open door for her grown children, extended family, and friends.  She rented one side of it to make ends meet.

Her adult life took place in Denver.  I love the name of her writing group, Nuts of the Round Table:

Nonie and her best friend:

Insight into short stories, with which Nonie mostly made her living before the Beany series:

I wish they would.


I used to go to library books sales in Seattle and I would buy a Weber book whenever I saw one.

Maybe it is embarrassing to tell you that I have read the entire series (14 books, plus another series in which Beany is a minor character) three times, and might read it all again before I die.

I did go outside between rain storms today, with the idea of just moving three plants that I had planted on Friday in not quite the right place.

the rain gauge since Saturday A.M.

I shifted two roses and a climbing aconitum and  planted one more plant:

Much to my surprise, I weeded a red wheelbarrow full of shotweed and creeping buttercup, only stopping when I lost my digging tool and then was driven from the search by more windy rain.

Tulips survived the storm.

Before starting the next book, I caught up on the Tootlepedal blog.  I had missed a couple of weeks during that time when we were working so hard on the Shelburne Hotel garden.  Do read this charming story of the opening ceremony for the rebuilt bridge behind their cottage.

A Full Life in a Small Place

I had time to read one more short book on Sunday, another re-read that I read and loved in the mid 1990s.

I feel very much this way about my compost:

On the compelling subject of age:



Below, the height refers to the the height of one’s lifetime achievements, and I adore her for admitting to her regrets (too similar to mine):

She let me know it is okay to be a homebody:


That is just a glimpse into this informative and transformative book.  It is easily ordered online.  Like Thomas C Cooper, she seems to have written only the one brilliant gardening book, although she does have a couple of others about nature.

During my reading weekend, Allan installed two vents for his shed, which has been becoming too humid inside:


The high vent. A low one is in front, both with heat controlled shutters.

Monday is supposed to be the ONLY nice day this coming week.  Definitely a work day.

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4-5 April: read along 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Still feeling quite low, I welcomed rainy day reading, although work might have been a better distraction because so many things at home remind me of my cat, Calvin, and I still so much miss my perfect reading day lap cat, Smoky. I would happily take Calvin’s galumphing leap into my lap, his hard pokey feet, his cold damp nose and the way he would head butt my book. 

I turned to a book by William H Thomas that I had read in 2004.  

Just a few ideas I especially like follow. 

The importance of grandmothers (with an apology to fathers, whose absence is surely noticed):

Because I grew up mostly with my grandma and her interesting friends, old age has always seemed rather idyllic and desirable to me. But the last two years of her life, in a nursing home, were the ultimate old age horror story that I fear with all my being. 

The sterility of that non-home was evoked for me in this passage where, as a young doctor, the author treats an elderly woman for a medical condition but cannot help her emotional distress when he prepared to leave and “She…

Moving on from that heartbreaking scene…

Where I live, the population is weighted toward retirees. They should be more appreciated and wooed with better medical facilities (which are improving over the years) and more options for elder care. 

On the prevalence of the declinist view of old age, using an example of watching an old man’s hobbling gait:

The Eden Alternative is the mission of the author:

A connection with gardens and animals would certainly be key to my elderly happiness, as would be the ability to provide care to others instead of just being an object of care:

The qualities of change provided by relating to plants and animals (and children, although that is outside of my usual life experience so far) makes for new memories. 


This made me think that perhaps my submerged memories of this book influenced my dream of making the courtyard of the local assisted living facility a paradise garden.  I was inspired to put the book down and poke around online this afternoon for a glimpse of what my former four quadrants of flower gardens there looks like now, three? years after we were fired by a new manager.  Oh, look.  The garden quadrants are lawn now; all the four corner gardens of flowers are gone:

Some surely find that an improvement, much less messy and so easy to maintain. I wonder if any of the lilies or narcissi or tulips or crocuses ever try to pop their heads up?  I wanted to create a bountiful Eden there (on almost no budget for plants) and I thought I would have years to do it. 

Now I remember that this book led me to another book that I rated highly. I just ordered it:

The concept of what the author calls Green Houses, where elders live together for mutual support, appeals to me.  If only I had been able to buy a compound!  Much as I value solitude, there may come a time when it would be good to throw my lot in with others. I would like to see the zoning for our town change so that a couple of tiny houses for friends could go into our back garden. Ideally, we could potter around together till we became quite ancient. I most fervently do not want to end up in That Place where my gardens have turned to lawns. 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

In Script and Scribble, by Kitty Burns Florey, I read of a book that I would surely love, and indeed I did when I read it today. 

From the introduction: In the late 1870s, Jewett wrote: “Character and architecture seemed to lose..

She captured, in her novel of a woman coming from the city to live for the summer in a small New England fishing village, a whole way of life. Of course, it reminded me of life in present day Ilwaco, and, of course, the parts about the gardens were my favourites.

The fishing village:

the home where the city woman takes a room:


A perfect example of small town feuding and fussing (on an island nearby):

On another little island, an idyllic homestead:

In that island house lived a woman whose gift of hospitality reminded me of my grandmother:

The part that affected me the most even as I reread it now is a visit to an old fisherman whose wife died eight years before.

Her pretty and beloved possessions remain:

(“I instinctively like to acquire and store up what promises to outlast me.”–Colette)

“I wonder where she is and what she knows of the little world she left?” might be the most profound question I have ever read about death. “I didn’t want to lose her and she didn’t want to go….”

“the little world…..”

Before I sit here and weep, here is a passage from an essay that closes out out the book. 

Somehow in all my life I had never heard of Sarah Orne Jewett. I am so glad to have spent the day with her in my little world. Thank you, Kitty Burns Florey (who also introduced me to the diaries of Dawn Powell).

I had gone out in the torrential rain to pick a bouquet for the Shelburne Hotel, since their garden is low on spring flowers. (I will be planting many bulbs there this fall, I hope.). Allan delivered it and took this photo. 

We have been getting dire storm warnings for Friday night into Saturday. These often turn out to be lesser storms than predicted.  If we do lose power, there may be a blog break. 

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Sunday, 1 April 2018

We had a day of cold rain till late afternoon.

I finished A Man Called Ove, enjoying it completely.  (And have ordered the film.)


I decided to read this book again, as I had liked it a lot years ago:

I realized about one chapter in that it was not for me anymore and turned instead to a book of essays, edited by Molly Peacock (who wrote The Paper Garden) and all on a topic that is meaningful to me, “privacy in a public world”.

My favourite bits…

From an essay by Cathleen Medwick:

From an essay by F. Gonzales Crusi:

(Oh yes, I get anxious if someone comes closer than those thirty inches.  I will back up.)

From an essay by Jonathan Franzen:

I still feel that scrutiny when walking to the post office in my town.  (We do not get mail delivery, so most of us visit the post office daily.)

My favourite essay is this one on small town living:

Here, houses are often referred to by the name of a family who lived there a generation go.

All of these essays were written before Facebook gave even more opportunity to gather information and scandal.

“hot, wild, and mean…”

I could tell you stories that have gotten round the Ilwaco circuit and back to me about things I supposedly have said or done that never happened and were not even remotely true.  And I am sure the same is true of all who live in this small town.

We had a strange encounter while I was reading the privacy book.  A ring of the doorbell and opening of the front door revealed a strange creature on this Easter Sunday.  The creature wanted to visit the back garden.

The sun came out as I read the book of privacy essays.  Allan commented that it might look nice out, yet the temperature was only 43.  That made me feel better about finishing the book today.  He went grocery shopping….

a pot of gold in the deli?

…and on the way home did a brief deadheading at the Ilwaco Community Building.

Tulipa sylvestris

a greiggii tulip

in the tiered garden

In the evenings this weekend, we watched two excellent documentaries: I Am Not Your Negro on Saturday night, and on Sunday Hope and Fury: MLK, The Movement, and the Media.

Tonight, Calvin seemed ever so much better and played like mad with his pinball-type cat toy.

Tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain and 30 mph wind.  I hope so, because I started to reread What Are Old People For? at bedtime, and if I can finish it tomorrow I will, for once, have no almost-overdue books pressuring me.  I also am anxious to find the answer to that question; I cannot remember it from reading the book a decade ago.  I grew up with vigorous and interesting old people, and I very much want to become one, but I am concerned about what I will be for if the time comes that I must retire from public gardening.



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